Reinventing the Business Intelligence Upgrade

The worst thing you could possibly do in an upgrade kickoff meeting is send the message to your business users that “the upgrade will be long and painful but the charts will be prettier”. Let’s examine three ways that you can reinvent the typical business intelligence upgrade, deliver tangible business value, and use the SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence upgrade as a catalyst to propel your organization’s business success into the future.

Recalculate Business Value

The first step in planning a business intelligence upgrade is determining its business value. The worst possible scenario for a business user is that there isn’t any business value in the upgrade. There is no business value in enduring a months-long conversion project to retire Desktop Intelligence reports just to have the exact reports (hopefully) in Web Intelligence. There is no business value in obtaining support for the latest version of your database or collaboration platform. There is no business value in replacing dusty beige boxes with sexy blade hardware.

None of these things are wrong. In fact, they are necessary components of a business intelligence upgrade project. Just recognize that your business users won’t see the value proposition. And that’s OK.

Instead, build and budget increased business value into the upgrade project plan. One way is to use the new tools to put existing actionable data into places it’s never been before.

  • Use Explorer to allow casual users to analyze data without waiting for others to build reports
  • Use mobile BI solutions to allow mobile workers like sales teams to make decisions on the go
  • For organizations that run better on SAP, use Web Intelligence, Analysis for OLAP and Analysis for Microsoft Office to cast SAP Business Warehouse (BW) data in a whole new light

Be open to the possibility that pilots of new functionality may be ready to go live prior to content migrated from your older BI system. This is especially true if your current BI system contains lots of legacy Desktop Intelligence reports.

Re-engage with the business community

Is the BI upgrade kickoff an unpleasant reminder that you haven’t kept in touch with your key business users? An upgrade project is an excellent catalyst to encourage re-engagement with your organization’s business community. During the planning process, devote time to discussing your key users’ pain points. It might be beneficial to have these conversations in a Starbucks rather than a conference room. Here are three ideas for putting processes in place to address pain points and improve user adoption:

  • Begin an annual BI satisfaction survey and publish the results.
  • Start a quarterly internal Business Intelligence user group
  • Take help desk operations to the next level by creating an Apple Store-style Business Intelligence Genius Bar

None of these activities are dependent on the capabilities of your new BI software- only the capabilities of your team.

Re-introduce business intelligence to the executive suite

When starting a new project with a new customer, my new favorite question is “how do C-level executives and the team that supports them obtain business intelligence from your system.” The answer to this question is frequently underwhelming, which means that there is a deep chasm between the executive office and the BI system. This chasm is frequently filled with spreadmarts stitched together with Microsoft Access, Excel, and duct tape. However, executives are frequently the first to carry tablets like the Apple iPad around the office. While the Mobile BI and Explorer Mobile apps from SAP are still maturing, the current versions can unlock great business value. The business intelligence upgrade project is a key time to re-establish a direct connection to this important user segment (can anyone say “executive sponsor”?) and re-introduce the current crop of SAP BI solutions. As a start, consider booking a large conference room, partnering with your account management team at SAP, and giving a “future of business intelligence” presentation to your executives and key business users.

Conclusion

Upgrades are necessary to the IT organization. But as fellow EV Technologies architect and SAP Mentor Greg Myers noted in his recent 2012 ASUG Annual Conference presentation entitled The Politics of Upgrades:

Sometimes you have to think of yourself as a candidate running for public office. You need to go and stump around the organization and build a grassroots movement that are in favor of the upgrade. Having buy-in from IT is just one small piece of the puzzle. The more different departments you can ‘win over’ and realize how the upgrade will make their jobs easier, better, faster, the more momentum you will build towards getting that prized approval to upgrade. Never forget the risk of doing nothing. People tend to think that staying where they are is safe, with no risk involved.

With some creative planning, upgrades can become necessary for all of your organization’s stakeholders, not just IT.

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